Special Report

States Where People Live the Longest

Detailed Findings

Higher incomes are closely associated with longer life expectancy. The difference in life expectancy at the age of 40 for Americans in the richest 1% and the poorest 1% is 15 years for men and 10 years for women, according to a 2016 research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Of the 23 states with a shorter life expectancy (at birth) that the average nationwide 17 have poverty rates that exceed that national rate of 13.4%. The opposite is generally the case across states with above-average life expectancies.

Exposure to air pollution, a general lack of access to health care, unhealthy behaviors, lack of access to healthy food, and other health risk factors — which are all more common in poorer areas — also contribute to lower life expectancies in some parts of the country.

Unhealthy behaviors such as smoking and physical inactivity can also help explain an area’s life expectancy. All but three of the 23 states with life expectancies at or below the national average report a higher adult smoking rate than the 17.0% national rate. Of the states with longer life expectancies, only seven report smoking rates that exceed the national rate.


To determine the states with the longest and shortest life expectancy, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed 2010-2015 life expectancy at birth figures obtained from the National Association for Public Health Statistics and Information Systems (NAPHSIS) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF). Figures for life expectancy at birth in 1980 came from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. Data on smoking, excessive drinking, and obesity rates came from County Health Rankings & Roadmaps program, a collaboration between RWJF and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute. Data on the 2017 income and poverty rates came from the U.S. Census Bureau. All data are for the most recent period available.

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